You may recall way back at the beginning of this year and this blog, I had some harsh things to say about sailing on the cruise-ship Balmoral, one of Fred. Olsen's finest.... Her present passengers have been experiencing truly frightening events.
After our ghastly trip on Balmoral in January - heading for Tangiers but ending up in Antwerp because of the storms and all the accidents on board due to what I believe is the criminal lack of sufficient handrails aboard, her next trip was to Cape Verde, and after that she set off on a voyage round the world. I seem to remember this trip will last several months.
While on this mega-expensive cruise, her unfortunate passengers and crew have been subject to fierce pirate attack in the seas off Somalia, in a region known as the Gates of Hell. The ship came under fire four times from bandits armed with rocket launchers.
According to a newspaper cutting given to me tonight by a fellow-student from my French class, pirate boats appeared and began closing in rapidly.
Alarmed by the suspicious activity of these boats, the Balmoral's crew made emergency calls, and sent up distress flares. The ships' 1300 passengers, 95% British and (as on our voyage) mostly elderly, were herded into 'safe' areas (I have no idea what these could have been - maybe the big stairwell and reception area which has relatively few windows).
The attack was averted by the arrival of a US Navy ship which escorted the vessel through the Gulf of Aden - where pirates attacked more than 130 ships last year. From April to December, 42 vessels were hijacked and £100m taken as ransom.
What are these cruise lines doing??????????
PS It is worth reading the official Fred. Olsen account of this incident dated March 5th. They deny that the ship was attacked and so on.
The Sun newspaper gives more details: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2295025.ece